Dec. 10, 2021

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

Dogged source work, preparation deliver scoop on 1st US omicron case

teamed up to score a major beat on news of the first case of the omicron variant in the United States.

Balsamo, lead federal law enforcement reporter and one of the best-sourced journalists in the AP, knew omicron was headed toward the U.S. and kept in close touch with his contacts, circling back repeatedly to ask whether the virus had been identified on U.S. soil.When he finally got word from a rock-solid source, Balsamo went to White House reporter Miller, who also had been chasing the story and quickly confirmed it. The two moved lightning fast, writing a story off Miller’s smart prep reporting. Leveraging their sources, they had an alert on the wire within four minutes, and a story moved about three minutes later.They beat the official announcement by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention — that the first known omicron case had been detected in California — by just a few minutes but in the world of competitive scoops, minutes can feel like hours. TV, radio, major websites all used AP’s story on one of the most highly anticipated stories of the week. https://aplink.news/f7e

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Aug. 16, 2018

Best of the States

In Tuskegee, home to black achievement, a Confederate monument endures

The name “Tuskegee, Alabama” evokes images of black empowerment in a once-segregated nation.

Booker T. Washington and George Washington Carver became legends of education at what is now Tuskegee University, and the nation’s first black fighter pilots were known as the Tuskegee Airmen after training in the town during World War II. Michelle Obama gave an impassioned speech there in 2015 while first lady.

So why is there a Confederate monument in the middle of the nearly all-black city?

Birmingham, Ala., correspondent Jay Reeves, using information gleaned from old newspaper accounts, local government records and interviews, reported that the United Daughters of the Confederacy raised money for the monument in the early 1900s. And the white-controlled county gave the heritage group land at the center of town for a whites-only park. It’s there that the statue still stands 109 years later.

Several efforts to relocate the monument have failed through the years, mainly because the Confederate heritage group still owns the land and refuses to move the statue.

In addition to text, Reeves shot photos and located archival images, as well as shooting and editing video for the multiformat package.

For digging in to examine why Confederate monuments are coming down nationwide but not in the historic, majority-black town of Tuskegee, Ala., Reeves wins this week’s Best of the States award.

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Dec. 17, 2021

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

Interview with CDC’s Walensky puts AP ahead on virus news

collaborated on a significant edition of “The AP Interview” newsmaker series. AP’s conversation with Dr. Rochelle Walensky, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, put the AP ahead on two developments during a busy week of virus coverage.First, Walensky discussed research into the omicron variant, revealing that a CDC report would detail that early cases appeared to be mild. Second, she gave the AP exclusive comments on her decision to allow booster doses of Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine for several million 16- and 17-year-olds.Those comments — on an embargo basis a day ahead of the official announcement — let the AP publish video almost immediately after the announcement. Health and science reporter Stobbe’s strong relationship with the CDC also allowed AP to report the decision 10 minutes before the agency’s press release went out, putting the AP ahead of the competition. The all-formats package included Anderson’s distinctive portraits of Walensky, and multiple video edits for newsrooms and consumers.The interview was cited by major news outlets, and footage by video journalists Lum and Martin was used by ABC’s flagship morning show, “Good Morning America.”https://aplink.news/do6https://aplink.video/782https://aplink.news/3rh

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Nov. 26, 2021

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

AP presses F1 racing on human rights; helps free political prisoner

has kept human rights on the media agenda while covering the international Formula One auto racing series. His reporting has had impact and is now credited with helping free a political prisoner in Bahrain, site of one of the races.Paris-based Pugmire, long aware of governmental efforts at “sportswashing” in authoritarian countries hosting the series, had been one of the first journalists to press world champion Lewis Hamilton last season about jailed dissidents after discovering that Hamilton had received letters with harrowing descriptions of torture and sexual abuse by authorities in Bahrain. When an 11-year-old boy whose father is on Bahrain's death row sent Hamilton a drawing of the driver’s Mercedes race car, Pugmire had asked the driver publicly what he would do it about the case. Hamilton pledged to raise the cases with Bahraini authorities, saying the boy’s letter “really hits home.” Such questioning by reporters is rare and risky at sports events in such tightly controlled countries, but Pugmire kept at it for months.Then, this past September, an 18-year-old man was released from prison in Bahrain after being allegedly being tortured since 2019, an apparent reprisal against his family. His mother had spent more than two years in prison for criticizing the Bahrain F1 race on social media.The family’s supporters credit Pugmire’s reporting for helping lead to the release.Pugmire raised the rights issue again at the inaugural Qatar Grand Prix last week, asking Hamilton about a doctor on a 138-day hunger strike. The driver, who wore a rainbow helmet in support of LGBTQ rights in Qatar, said F1 is “duty bound” to call attention to human rights.AP’s reporting emboldened other media, including the BBC and Britain’s The Times, to follow Pugmire’s lead, questioning drivers and F1’s governing body about such issues. Pugmire won praise from a Bahraini human rights advocacy group as well as AP’s news leadership.https://aplink.news/etyhttps://aplink.news/gnghttps://aplink.news/xzehttps://aplink.news/ba9

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Aug. 09, 2018

Best of the States

Jobs boom favors Democratic counties over Trump strongholds; social issues motivate GOP base

President Donald Trump has long asserted that his tax cuts and other policies would accelerate job growth, which, in turn, would serve the “forgotten” men and women who had helped propel him to the White House in the 2016 election.

Washington, D.C.-based economics reporter Josh Boak wondered: Had that actually occurred so far? And how much was job growth a motivating force for Trump supporters?

Boak hit on a possible way to hold the president’s claims to a fair test. He turned to a relatively obscure report issued by the government’s Bureau of Labor Statistics, then merged those economic figures with the AP’s 2016 election returns, broken down by county.

The result, under multiple calculations, was clear: The bulk of U.S. hiring under Trump had so far occurred in Democratic counties.

Boak then spent three days in Beaver County, Pennsylvania, an area that had voted decisively for Trump and had lost jobs in the past 12 months. He reported that Republican voters appeared to be motivated more by social issues – opposition to gun control, for example. “Our No. 1 motivating factor,” the county Republican chairman told Boak, “is Second Amendment issues.”

For exclusively documenting how job growth under Trump has disproportionately underserved his geographic base and for illustrating that trend in a community that reflects it, Boak earns this week’s Best of the States award.

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July 16, 2021

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

AP Exclusive: US leaves Bagram base; Afghans left in the dark

were quick to deliver an all-formats look — and an exclusive — from Bagram Airfield in Afghanistan after the U.S. departure from the base that served for nearly 20 years as the epicenter of America’s war to unseat the Taliban and hunt down al-Qaida.Media around the world were watching for the U.S. withdrawal from Bagram, but Gannon, AP’s Afghanistan/Pakistan news director with decades of hard-won experience in the region, broke news. First, she pressed for access to the base after the U.S. military's July 2 departure. Joined by Kabul-based video journalist Amin and photographer Gul, the trio were granted access on July 5 and arrived to provide a rare glimpse of what had been the largest U.S. military base in the country.But that access was only one element of the story. The new Afghan commander of Bagram was initially reluctant to share details about how he and his troops took control of the base. Gannon told him there had been rumors about looting, and with her persistent questioning, the commander finally shared the full story: U.S. troops left quietly, switched off the lights and never bothered to tell the Afghan military that they were gone. The gap of two hours between the U.S. departure and the arrival of the Afghan military at Bagram enabled looters to sneak into the once heavily guarded base.The story made a splash, with Gannon fielding interview requests from major news outlets to describe what she had seen and heard at Bagram. The Pentagon, facing criticism after Gannon’s story appeared, later said the Afghans had been informed two days in advance of the U.S. intention to leave, but that the precise hour was left secret for security reasons. The team’s all-formats reporting provided an early look at the post-U.S. era in Afghanistan, in a package that was stunning for its detail and news value.https://aplink.news/95ehttps://aplink.video/odbhttps://aplink.video/5bq

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Sept. 06, 2019

Best of the Week — First Winner

In the face of death, the party of a lifetime

In a world focused on life and survival, death is often unseen, endured in private and acknowledged in glowing obituaries or tragic news stories. It’s also mostly out of the control of the person who is dying.

Now, with nine U.S. states allowing terminally ill people to end their lives with fatal drugs, thousands of people have legally chosen how and when to end their lives.

Seattle Photographer Elaine Thompson has long wanted to show the real, personal side of what often comes across as an impersonal process. She spent months looking for the right subject, getting tantalizingly close to success before plans fell through. She stuck with it, and when she found Bob Fuller, she enlisted reporter Gene Johnson to tell his story.

This week’s Best of the Week goes to the team of Elaine Thompson and Gene Johnson who chronicled how one man, in the face of death, created the party of a lifetime.

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Dec. 14, 2018

Best of the States

Years of planning pay off in ‘picture perfect’ coverage of Bush funeral events

For more than a decade, Washington photo editor Jon Elswick has negotiated with the Department of Defense over coverage plans for the funeral of former President George H.W. Bush, while Houston photojournalist David Phillip fostered a relationship with the Bush family and their spokesman to secure AP’s shooting positions for the eventual funeral events.

Those relationships were crucial to arranging and executing coverage, paving the way for more than two dozen staffers to parachute into Washington, Houston and College Station, Texas, where they produced outstanding photos in real time and for the history books.

Among the highlights: Photographer Morry Gash fired a remote-controlled camera that captured a stunning bird’s-eye view of the U.S. Capitol rotunda during visitation and services, and David Phillip negotiated to shoot inside the railroad car carrying the coffin as the funeral train passed through Texas. Phillip called it “the most incredible event I have ever covered.”

The photo coverage was part of an impressive dayslong cross-format effort by scores of AP staff across the country and globe that included hours of live video and spot and breaking text, video, audio and graphics coverage that explored Bush’s life and presidency from every angle.

For exceptional planning and execution on one of the largest news events of the year, this week’s Best of the States goes to the team of photo staff covering the Bush funeral.

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March 04, 2022

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

AP investigation: Toxic chemicals lie beneath Fort Ord

spent a year investigating the possible health effects of groundwater and soil contamination under Fort Ord, a decommissioned U.S. Army base on the central California coast. A tip led AP to a Facebook group of hundreds of soldiers who had lived at the base and developed rare forms of cancer they believe were caused by contamination.The complex, all-formats story included in-depth interviews with those likely suffering health consequences of exposure at the base, which is on the Environmental Protection Agency’s list of the most polluted places in the nation. The team revealed a discredited 25-year-old study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that found no “likely” risk at the site, and documents showing the Army knew toxic chemicals had been improperly dumped at Fort Ord for decades, but took pains not to let that information become public. Read more

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Feb. 27, 2017

Best of the States

AP Exclusive: Ex-congregants reveal years of ungodly abuse

This story begins in 2014, when five members of Word of Faith Fellowship, an evangelical congregation in western North Carolina, were indicted for beating a young man because they thought he was gay. Mitch Weiss, an investigative reporter based in Charlotte, reached out to the man, Matthew Fenner, who told a harrowing tale.

For Weiss, that conversation was the beginning of a nearly two-year quest to tell the story of Word of Faith and its controlling leader, Jane Whaley, a 77-year-old petite former math teacher with a thick Southern accent. Working alongside Atlanta-based video journalist Alex Sanz, Weiss eventually pieced together a startling and comprehensive look at a religious community that promised its members peace and prosperity. What they got was violence and abuse, administered in the name of God, former followers told him.

Part one of that series, published this week, wins Best of the States, and there is more to come.

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Sept. 03, 2021

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

Only on AP: US veteran determined not to lose Afghan colleague

spent months building a relationship with U.S. Army veteran Spencer Sullivan and his Afghan translator Abdulhaq Sodais, leading to exclusive video and photos of them meeting in Germany and a layered, all-formats story on Sullivan’s battle to keep America’s promise to bring his comrade to safety.After his first translator was killed by the Taliban while waiting for a U.S. visa, Sullivan felt the U.S. had betrayed its promise to help those who risked their lives interpreting for American troops. Sullivan was determined not to let Sodais, who used smugglers to get to Europe and feared being sent back to Afghanistan, suffer the same fate. The situation took on urgency as the Taliban seized control and the U.S. withdrew from Afghanistan.Sullivan flew from Virginia to Germany to help Sodais prepare for his Sept. 6 asylum hearing. At that point, the global footprint of AP paved the way for a good story to become great: Rome video journalist Andrea Rosa and Amsterdam photographer Peter Dejong met the pair in Germany and shot moving photos and video of the men together, with Sullivan trying to assure a terrified Sodais that he would be OK.Watson, based in San Diego, wove that reporting into the text story, producing a detailed picture of the relationship between the two. The result was a rich, layered multiformat package that took people on a journey through one soldier’s attempt to make a small difference in the middle of a chaotic situation, all too aware of the price if he fails.https://aplink.news/xxfhttps://aplink.video/k33

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April 01, 2022

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

Coverage of China 737 crash features exclusive video

rushed to the site of the Eastern China Airlines crash on a remote mountainside in southwest China, teaming up with colleagues in AP’s Beijing bureau to deliver nonstop coverage over several days. The work by chief photographer Ng and video producer Zhang was notable for its breadth, particularly multiple live shots and video exclusives despite the country’s restrictive reporting conditions. Reporting in all formats saw strong usage by customers and high engagement on AP’s platforms. Read more

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Oct. 25, 2019

Best of the States

Two all-formats exclusives on discovery of Japan’s sunken Midway warships

How are you guaranteed to get an exclusive if and when researchers locate Japanese ships sunken during the World War II Battle of Midway? 

One sure way is to be the only journalist accompanying researchers aboard a vessel in the middle of nowhere in the Pacific. That’s exactly what Hawaii correspondent Caleb Jones did, delivering two exclusive packages on the discovery of warships in northwestern Hawaii, first by convincing the search company to invite only the AP, and then singlehandedly producing the all-formats content from the research ship.

For successfully pitching AP’s reach, then following up with strong storytelling that led to worldwide exclusives, Caleb Jones wins this week’s Best of the States.

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March 18, 2022

Best of the Week — First Winner

Unmatchable coverage by AP team in Mariupol: ‘Their images are defining this war’

Rarely is the difference so stark between news organizations that subscribe to the AP and those that don’t. That’s down to the tireless efforts of AP staffers around the world who have reported, edited, planned, provisioned and advised to make our coverage of Ukraine truly stellar. And it’s especially true in the coverage of a single city that has seen some of the war’s worst horrors.AP’s Germany-based video journalist Mstyslav Chernov, photographer Evgeniy Maloletka and freelance producer Vasilisa Stepanenko have been the only international journalists to chronicle the tragedies of Mariupol. The team was recognized with last week’s Best of the Week award, and their unflinching coverage continued, the world riveted not only by their presence, but by their stunning journalism. Amid the chaos, they have found stories so moving — and told them so compellingly — that it’s impossible to tell the broader story of Ukraine without them.Usage for the work has been extraordinary. “Their images,” wrote Nick Schifrin of PBS NewsHour, “are defining this war.”For courageous, must-have coverage from the heart of the world’s biggest story, the team of Chernov, Maloletka and Stepanenko is AP’s Best of the Week — First Winner.

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June 12, 2020

Best of the States

AP Analysis: After previous police killings, states slow to reform use-of-force

Calls for police reforms after George Floyd’s death in Minneapolis have echoed the calls to action after a wave of killings of young black men by police in 2014. 

So what happened after those killings? 

Ohio statehouse reporter Julie Carr Smyth, working with AP colleagues around the country, found that while nearly half the states have since enacted some type of reform, only a third passed legislation limiting use of force. The reporting revealed that contributions from politically influential police unions were a key factor in stalling legislation, while a separate analysis by the data team showed that Minneapolis police disproportionately used force against blacks when compared with other racial groups. 

The day Smyth’s story moved, a number of states made proposals to limit the use of deadly force.

For quickly reporting out and leading a national look at what reforms have taken place in the last six years, Smyth wins this week’s Best of the States award.

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Aug. 23, 2019

Best of the Week — First Winner

Chance encounter, tenacious reporting reveal harassment allegations against Placido Domingo

Jocelyn Gecker’s bombshell investigation of sexual harassment allegations against opera superstar Placido Domingo started with a song.

San Francisco-based Gecker was at a party about 18 months ago when she noticed the beautiful voice of the woman next to her singing “Happy Birthday,” and complimented her. The woman was a former opera singer who confided that the industry had a dark underbelly, offering her assessment that “Placido Domingo is the Bill Cosby of the opera world.”

The discussion sparked months of work by Gecker to publicly reveal what many said had been an open secret in the opera world. In all, Gecker would find nine women who accused Domingo of sexual harassment and a half-dozen more who said the star made them uncomfortable. Getting people to go on the record proved challenging, but a breakthrough came when one of Domingo’s accusers agreed to tell her story on camera. The resulting 5,200-word story – and Domingo’s response – commanded instant attention and heavy engagement in global media.

For finding a major international story in an unlikely setting, and her care in dealing with sources while reporting tenaciously on a sensitive topic, Gecker earns AP’s Best of the Week honors.

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Dec. 04, 2020

Best of the Week — First Winner

AP coverage of refugees in Sudan opens a window into Ethiopia’s Tigray conflict

The thousands of refugees spilling over the border into Sudan from Ethiopia’s Tigray region are some of the only firsthand witnesses to a worsening conflict that remains out of reach for most of the world’s media. Crossing a remote desert area, they recount ethnic-targeted killings, many fleeing at a moment’s notice and leaving loved ones behind amid an offensive by the Ethiopian government against Tigray separatists. 

Video journalist Fay Abuelgasim and photographer Nariman el-Mofty have put individual faces on the complex story since arriving at the Sudan-Ethiopia border area nearly two weeks ago. Along with reporters Sam Magdy in Cairo and Cara Anna in Nairobi, their work has revealed the human toll of a conflict to which access remains tightly restricted, even as the United Nations warns of possible war crimes. AP clients have recognized the work with strong play.

For their determined, resourceful and revealing work to document the individual struggles of an escalating refugee crisis, Abuelgasim, el-Mofty, Anna and Magdy earn AP’s Best of the Week award.

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Dec. 02, 2019

Best of the Week — First Winner

As women take to the streets, an in-depth look at domestic violence in France

Kamil Zihnioglu has seen lots of protests while working as a photo stringer for The Associated Press in Paris, but these campaigns were different, focused on a dark, unreconstructed side of an otherwise progressive France.

Every time a woman is killed by her partner, hundreds of activists take to the streets under cover of night to plaster signs decrying the deaths and pleading for government action. 

But Zihnioglu wanted to tell the story behind the protests. He spent weeks gaining the activists’ trust, and he teamed up with visiting video journalist Mstyslav Chernov to tell their story. Meanwhile, reporter Claire Parker and the Paris video team of Catherine Gaschka and Oleg Cetinic produced a powerful all-format package digging into deadly domestic violence in France.

For bringing attention to an issue that is often ignored, Kamil Zihnioglu, Claire Parker, Mystslav Chernov, Catherine Gaschka and Oleg Cetinic win AP’s Best of the Week.

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June 22, 2018

Best of the States

Chicago gangs embrace social media – often with deadly results

Chicago legal affairs writer Michael Tarm had been anticipating the release of a 400-page report on gangs, compiled about once every six years by the Chicago Crime Commission. He touched base with the commission every few months for years, asking for advanced access to the documents.

It paid off.

Tarm obtained exclusive access to new law enforcement gang intelligence before its official release, then he spent weeks going through police and court records to find a gang-related killing to serve as a narrative of the findings. He uncovered the case of Lamanta Reese, a story illustrating how social media is transforming the city’s street-gang culture with deadly consequences. Gang member Reese, 19, had posted a smiley-face emoji on Facebook in response to an off-color joke about the mother of a rival gang member. Days later, that rival crossed the street between their gang factions, sneaked up on Reese and fatally shot him 11 times.

The story got strong play, with more than 10,000 page views on AP’s site the first day – almost 17,000 overall. The main story was published by 220 sites, including The New York Times and Washington Post, as well as the hometown Chicago Tribune and Sun-Times. The Sun-Times and Daily Herald also ran it in their papers.

For obtaining exclusive access to law enforcement gang intelligence before its official release, poring over police and court records, and drawing on in-depth sourcing to produce a multiformat, compelling narrative, Tarm wins this week’s Best of the States award.

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Jan. 25, 2019

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

Like an episode of ‘Narcos’: Rogue DEA agent in Colombia conspires to steal millions

for their APNewsBreak on the biggest scandal in the DEA’s recent history, detailing how a rogue agent in Colombia teamed up with a top money launderer to allegedly steal $7 million over six years. The story, built on sourcework and solid reporting, was the second-most read on the APNews app on a Trump-dominated news day, and on its second day was still garnering 35,000 readers. In Colombia, it was front-page news and spurred a police investigation into the rogue agent’s Colombian wife. https://bit.ly/2FZtPgD